Internet Explorer 9 release boosts performance

Microsoft has made the final release of Internet Explorer 9, the company's latest assault on the web browser market, available for global download - but is it likely to tempt people back from the likes of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome?

The final release of IE9 brings with it, it has to be said, significant improvements over its predecessors. With a real focus on interoperability, Microsoft has fixed many of the issues with IE-specific page rendering - like broken text anchoring when viewing Scalable Vector Graphic files, and strange behaviour when embedding fonts - and created a browser that behaves rather more like a web designer might expect.

IE9 brings more than just back-end changes, however. Performance has been tweaked, with an improved JavaScript engine offering less embarrassing performance - plus the GPU acceleration features that are becoming commonplace in web browsers, allowing the work of rendering a page and smoothly scrolling to be passed off onto a graphics card rather than the system CPU.

This latest Internet Explorer release also brings with it security enhancements, designed to help improve the software's reputation among security specialists while keeping end users safe from attack by nasty web-borne threats. How successful these changes prove to be, however, is something only time will tell.

Sadly, there is a gaping hole in Internet Explorer 9's feature set: it's not compatible with Windows XP. Users of Microsoft's most widely-installed operating system will have the choice of sticking with Internet Explorer 8, upgrading to Vista or Windows 7, or switching to a third-party browser.

Internet Explorer 9 is available for immediate download in 39 languages, and will be pushed out to Windows systems via Windows Update shortly. The Japanese-language version is being delayed, however - and for a good reason.

"The IE team extends our sympathies to those affected by the massive earthquake in Japan," a spokesperson explained. "Out of respect for the situation, we are delaying the rollout of the final Japanese language version of IE9 to reduce load on network bandwidth at such a critical time."